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Poem: ‘Chrysalis’

Science in meter and verse

Illustration of leaves and butterflies against a green background

Masha Foya

Edited by Dava Sobel

We think of metamorphoses
as glorious and beautiful,
a quiescent

chrysalis emerging
as a yellow butterfly
slowly unfolding her

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translucent wings
letting them dry
in the open air

and flying off
in a flittering arc
reminding us

of our emergence from
the chrysalis of self-conscious

into the less tumultuous
of adulthood and of

the final transformation
we yearn for, the moldering body
releasing the immortal spirit, but imagine

how the wormlike
caterpillar feels after a life
of serenely munching leaves

to curl herself
on the underside of a chosen leaf
secreting a fiber

spinning a cocoon, incorporating
twigs, urticating hairs,
fecal pellets, bits of leaf and bark

disguised from
predatory bats and nightjars
while the arrival works its magic and

if she’s aware
as all things are aware
rock, tree, wind

she must feel
her skin stretching, covering
her body now

a thing with wings
that doesn’t resemble
hope so much

as grace, the undeserved love
that comes into our lives
as a gift.

Michael Simms has written four full-length poetry collections, the latest of which is Strange Meadowlark (Ragged Sky Press, 2023). In 2011 the Pennsylvania State Legislature awarded him a Certificate of Recognition for his service to the arts.

More by Michael Simms
Scientific American Magazine Vol 330 Issue 6This article was originally published with the title “‘Chrysalis’” in Scientific American Magazine Vol. 330 No. 6 (), p. 83